Amos 9:1
I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
IX.

(1) The last vision is transferred to the shrine at Bethel, the seat of the calf-worship. The prophet sees Jehovah Himself standing in pomp by the altar of burnt offering, and by His side the angel of His presence, to whom now, as on many other occasions, the mission of destruction has been entrusted. To him the words of Jehovah are addressed (so Aben Ezra, Kimchi). It is doubtful what is meant by the Hebrew Caphtôr (mistranslated “lintel of the door”). It may mean the wreathed capital of the columns, as in Zephaniah 2:14. So Hitzig and Keil. The word sippîm (mistranslated “posts”) properly signifies “thresholds,” but is here understood by the first-mentioned commentator to mean the cornice supported by the columns. This is confirmed by the LXX. on Isaiah 6:4 (see Delitzsch ad loc). But as there is no mention of the temple building, but only of the altar of burnt offering, it is much safer to adhere to the ordinary and well-established significations of these terms. We should accordingly follow Ewald in taking Caphtôr as referring to the ornamented horns of the altar. Similarly, in Exodus 25:31; Exodus 37:17, it signifies the richly decorated extremities of the golden candelabra. The scene is wonderfully vivid. Round the colossal altar of burnt offering a crowd of eager devotees is gathered. Jehovah gives the word of command to His angel, and with a blow that shakes the very threshold the ornamented altar horns are shivered to fragments, which are hurled down upon the panic-stricken multitude below.

And cut . . .—Rather, and dash them in pieces upon the head of all of them.

Amos 9:1. I saw — Namely, in a vision or ecstasy; the Lord — That is, the glory and majesty of the Lord, as Isaiah did, Isaiah 6:1, or a bright glorious light, indicating the presence of God; standing upon the altar — Resting upon, or over the altar. The altar of burnt-offering seems to be meant here, and the glory of God resting upon it to have denoted that his justice demanded the lives of the sinners here spoken of to be cut off. “He stands upon the altar,” says Henry, “to show that the ground of his controversy with this people was their profanation of his holy things: here he stands to avenge the quarrel of his altar; as also to signify, that the sin of the house of Israel, like that of the house of Eli, should not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.” And he said — To an angel, as Jerome explains it; or rather God here speaks to his people’s enemies, and gives them a commission to destroy them and their temple. Smite the lintel of the door — This signified that the temple, which was then represented to the prophet, should be destroyed. Whether this was the temple at Beth-el, or that of Jerusalem, is not quite certain. The Chaldee understands the vision of the kingdom of Judah; if so, the temple at Jerusalem is undoubtedly intended. And even if the vision relates, as most suppose, to the kingdom of Israel, yet still the temple of Jerusalem may be here spoken of, and the scene be laid there, because Israel had forsaken this altar and temple and set up others in opposition to them; and here God, in his jealousy, appears prepared to take vengeance. Possibly, the vision might also be designed to intimate his future departure from Judah too. There Ezekiel 9:2, saw the slaughter-men stand. By the lintel of the door, the chapiter, knop, or ornament that was upon the lintel, is intended, namely, of the door of the gate of the temple, or possibly of the gate that led into the priests’ court. That the posts may shake — The posts were the strength and beauty of the gate, and by these the princes, the door-posts as it were of the nation, are supposed to be represented, as the king is by the lintel of the door. And cut them, wound them deep in the head — That is, the people who were represented in the vision as standing in the court of the temple. He says in the head, more fully to signify the destroying of the chief or heads of this sinful people. All of them — Spare not one of them; let the destruction be general. And I will slay the last of them — That is, their posterity and their families — them, and all that remain of them, till it come to the last man. Observe, reader, there is no living for those of whom God hath said, I will slay them; no standing before his sword. He that fleeth of them shall not flee away — That is, shall not escape. He that escapeth of them shall not be delivered — That is, he that escapeth in battle, or escapes one or two, or even several judgments, shall, nevertheless, not escape finally; but shall fall in some other way, or be made captive. The greatest precaution, and the highest station in life, will not avail a man any thing when God is resolved to punish. This is intended for a warning to all that provoke the Lord to jealousy: let sinners read it and tremble. As there is no fighting it out with God, so there is no fleeing from him. His judgments, when they come with commission, as they will overpower the strongest, who think to withstand them, so they will overtake the swiftest, who think to outrun them.

9:1-10 The prophet, in vision, saw the Lord standing upon the idolatrous altar at Bethel. Wherever sinners flee from God's justice, it will overtake them. Those whom God brings to heaven by his grace, shall never be cast down; but those who seek to climb thither by vain confidence in themselves, will be cast down and filled with shame. That which makes escape impossible and ruin sure, is, that God will set his eyes upon them for evil, not for good. Wretched must those be on whom the Lord looks for evil, and not for good. The Lord would scatter the Jews, and visit them with calamities, as the corn is shaken in a sieve; but he would save some from among them. The astonishing preservation of the Jews as a distinct people, seems here foretold. If professors make themselves like the world, God will level them with the world. The sinners who thus flatter themselves, shall find that their profession will not protect them.I saw the Lord - He saw God in vision; yet God no more, as before, asked him what he saw. God no longer shows him emblems of the destruction, but the destruction itself. Since Amos had just been speaking of the idolatry of Samaria, as the ground of its utter destruction, doubtless this vision of such utter destruction of the place of worship, with and upon the worshipers, relates to those same idolaters and idoltries . True, the condenmation of Israel would become the condemnation of Judah, when Judah's sins, like Israel's, should become complete. But directly, it can hardly relate to any other than those spoken of before and after, Israel. "The altar," then, "over" which Amos sees God "stand," is doubtless the altar on which Jeroboam sacrificed, "the altar" which he set up over-against the altar at Jerusalem, the center of the calf-worship, whose destruction the man of God foretold on the day of its dedication.

There where, in counterfeit of the sacrifices which God had appointed, they offered would-be-atoning sacrifices and sinned in them, God appeared, standing, to behold, to judge, to condemn. "And He said, smite the lintel," literally, "the chapter," or "capital," probably so called from "crowning" the pillar with a globular form, like a pomegranate. This, the spurious outward imitation of the true sanctuary, God commands to be stricken, "that the posts," or probably "the thresholds, may shake." The building was struck from above, and reeled to its base. It does not matter, whether any blow on the capital of a pillar would make the whole fabric to shake. For the blow was no blow of man. God gives the command probably to the Angel of the Lord, as, in Ezekiel's vision of the destruction of Jerusalem, the charge to destroy was given to six men Ezekiel 9:2. So the first-born of Egypt, the army of Sennacherib, were destroyed by an Angel Exodus 12:23; 2 Kings 19:34-35. An Angel stood with his sword over Jerusalem 2 Samuel 24:1, 2 Samuel 24:15-16, when God punished David's presumption in numbering the people. At one blow of the heavenly Agent the whole building shook, staggered, fell.

And cut them in the head, all of them - o This may be either by the direct agency of the Angel, or the temple itself may be represented as falling on the heads of the worshipers. As God, through Jehu, destroyed all the worshipers of Baal in the house of Baal, so here He foretells, under a like image, the destruction of all the idolaters of Israel. He had said, "they that swear by the sin of Samaria - shall fall and never rise up again." Here he represents the place of that worship the idolaters, as it seems, crowded there, and the command given to destroy them all. All Israel was not to be destroyed. "Not the least grain" was to "fall upon the earth Amos 9:9. Those then here represented as destroyed to the last man, must be a distinct class. Those destroyed in the temple must be the worshipers in the temple. In the Temple of God at Jerusalem, none entered except the priests. Even the space "between the porch and the altar" was set apart for the priests. But heresy is necessarily irreverent, because, not worshiping the One God, it had no Object of reverence. Hence, the temple of Baal was full "from end to end 2 Kings 10:21, and the worshipers of the sun at Jerusalem turned "their backs toward the Temple," and "worshiped the sun toward the east, at the door of the Temple, between the porch and the altar" Ezekiel 8:16; Ezekiel 11:1. The worshipers of the calves were commanded to "kiss" Hosea 13:2 them, and so must have filled the temple, where they were.

And I will slay the last of them - The Angel is bidden to destroy those gatered in open idolatry in one place. God, by His Omniscience, reserved the rest for His own judgment. All creatures, animate or inanimate, rational or irrational, stand at His command to fulfill His will. The mass of idolaters having perished in their idolatry, the rest, not crushed in the fall of the temple, would fain flee away, but "he that fleeth shall not flee," God says, to any good "to themselves;" yea, although they should do what for man is impossible, they should not escape God.

CHAPTER 9

Am 9:1-15. Fifth and Last Vision.

None can escape the coming judgment in any hiding-place: for God is omnipresent and irresistible (Am 9:1-6). As a kingdom, Israel shall perish as if it never was in covenant with Him: but as individuals the house of Jacob shall not utterly perish, nay, not one of the least of the righteous shall fall, but only all the sinners (Am 9:7-10). Restoration of the Jews finally to their own land after the re-establishment of the fallen tabernacle of David; consequent conversion of all the heathen (Am 9:11-15).

1. Lord … upon the altar—namely, in the idolatrous temple at Beth-el; the calves which were spoken of in Am 8:14. Hither they would flee for protection from the Assyrians, and would perish in the ruins, with the vain object of their trust [Henderson]. Jehovah stands here to direct the destruction of it, them, and the idolatrous nation. He demands many victims on the altar, but they are to be human victims. Calvin and Fairbairn, and others, make it in the temple at Jerusalem. Judgment was to descend both on Israel and Judah. As the services of both alike ought to have been offered on the Jerusalem temple-altar, it is there that Jehovah ideally stands, as if the whole people were assembled there, their abominations lying unpardoned there, and crying for vengeance, though in fact committed elsewhere (compare Eze 8:1-18). This view harmonizes with the similarity of the vision in Amos to that in Isa 6:1-13, at Jerusalem. Also with the end of this chapter (Am 9:11-15), which applies both to Judah and Israel: "the tabernacle of David," namely, at Jerusalem. His attitude, "standing," implies fixity of purpose.

lintel—rather, the sphere-like capital of the column [Maurer].

posts—rather, "thresholds," as in Isa 6:4, Margin. The temple is to be smitten below as well as above, to ensure utter destruction.

cut them in the head—namely, with the broken fragments of the capitals and columns (compare Ps 68:21; Hab 3:13).

slay the last of them—their posterity [Henderson]. The survivors [Maurer]. Jehovah's directions are addressed to His angels, ministers of judgment (compare Eze 9:1-11).

he that fleeth … shall not flee away—He who fancies himself safe and out of reach of the enemy shall be taken (Am 2:14).The certainty of Israel’s desolation, Amos 9:1-10. The restoring of the tabernacle of David, and of the captivity of Israel.

I saw: as before, Amos 7:1,4,7 8:1; so here the prophet hath a fifth vision.

The Lord; the great, glorious, just, and holy God, in some visible tokens of his majesty.

Standing; either ready to execute sentence, or ready to depart, Ezekiel 9:3 10:1,4; indeed here he will do both, execute his own sentence, and depart from this people.

Upon the altar of burnt-offering before the temple at Jerusalem: here the scene is laid, this altar and temple Israel had forsaken, and set up others against it; and here God in his jealousy appears prepared to take vengeance: possibly it may intimate his future departure from Judah too. There Ezekiel, Ezekiel 9:2, saw the slaughtermen stand.

He said, commanded,

Smite the lintel of the door, or the chapiter, knop, ornament that was upon the lintel of the door, which is supposed to be of the gate of the temple, or possibly the door of the gate that led into the priests’ courts; and though the party that smites be not named, it is likely it was an angel; or possibly the prophet seemed to do it, for this is to do in vision.

That the posts may shake; which were the strength and beauty of the gate.

And cut, wound deep,

them, the people which were visionally represented as standing in the court of the temple,

in the head, that it may more fully signify the destroying of the chief of the heads of this sinful people.

All; spare not one of these.

I will slay the last; God will slay by the enemies’ sword the meanest of them, or the last, i.e. the posterity of them.

He that fleeth of them shall not flee away, or get out of danger.

He that escapeth, for the present, out of battle or besieged city,

shall not be delivered; shall yet at last fall into the enemies’ hand, or by his sword.

And I saw the Lord standing upon the altar,.... Either upon the altar of burnt offerings in the temple of Jerusalem, whither he had removed from the cherubim; signifying his being about to depart, and that he was displeased, and would not be appeased by sacrifice: so the Targum,

"said Amos the prophet, I saw the glory of the Lord removing from the cherub, and it dwelt upon the altar;''

and the vision may refer to the destruction of the Jews, their city and temple, either by the Chaldeans, or by the Romans: or rather, since the prophecy in general, and this vision in particular, seems to respect the ten tribes only, it was upon the altar at Bethel the Lord was seen standing, as offended at the sacrifices there offered, and to hinder them from sacrificing them, as well as to take vengeance on those that offered them, 1 Kings 13:1;

and he said; the Lord said, either to the prophet in vision, or to one of the angels, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi; or to the executioners of his vengeance, the enemies of the people of Israel:

smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake; the upper lintel, on which pomegranates and flowers were carved, and therefore called "caphtor", as Kimchi thinks; this was the lintel of the door, either of the temple at Jerusalem, as the Jewish writers generally suppose; or rather of the temple at Bethel, see 1 Kings 12:31; which was to be smitten with such three, that the posts thereof should shake; signifying the destruction of the whole building in a short time, and that none should be able to go in and out thereat:

and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword; which shows that the lintel and doorposts are not to be taken literally, but figuratively; and that the smiting and cutting of them intend the destruction of men; by the "head", the king, and the princes, and nobles, or the priests; and, by "the last of them", the common people, the meanest sort, or those that were left of them, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi:

he that fleeth of them shall not flee away; he that attempts to make his escape, and shall flee for his life, shall not get clear, but either be stopped, or pursued and taken:

and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered; he that does get out of the hands of those that destroy with the sword shall not be delivered from death, but shall die by famine or pestilence. The Targum is,

"and he said, unless the people of the house of Israel return to the law, the candlestick shall be extinguished, King Josiah shall be killed, and the house destroyed, and the courts dissipated, and the vessels of the house of the sanctuary shall go into captivity; and the rest of them I will slay with the sword, &c.''

referring the whole to the Jews, and to the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem.

I saw the Lord standing upon the {a} altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the {b} head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered.

(a) Which was at Jerusalem: for he did not appear in the idolatrous places of Israel.

(b) Both the most important of them, and also the common people.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. standing] stationed (Amos 7:7).

by the altar] lit. over, i.e. leaning over, an idiomatic use of the preposition, found elsewhere, as Numbers 23:3; Numbers 23:6; 1 Kings 13:1 &c.: cf. ch. Amos 7:7. The altar meant is the altar at Beth-el, the chief Israelitish sanctuary and national religious centre (Amos 7:13).

Smite the chapiters that the thresholds may shake, and cut them off on to the head of all of them] A violent blow is to be dealt out to the chapiters, or capitals at the top of the columns supporting the roof of the temple: the temple will quiver to its very foundations; the broken fragments of the capitals—and no doubt, though this is not expressly mentioned, of the roof as well—will fall down upon the heads of the worshippers assembled below, burying them beneath the ruins. It has been questioned who is addressed in the words smite and cut. The same question has to be asked sometimes elsewhere in the prophets (Isaiah 13:2; Jeremiah 5:10; Jeremiah 6:4; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10 &c.); and the reply is always the same, viz. the agent (or agents) whom in each case the prophet pictures as naturally fitted to carry out the commission: here, probably, an angel. The chapiter, properly a knop,—the word is used in Exodus 25:31 and elsewhere of a spherical ornament on the stem and branches of the golden candlestick,—will have been the globular ornament at the top of a column (so Zephaniah 2:14). Comp. in Solomon’s temple, 1 Kings 7:16-20 (where the word, however, is not the same).

and I will slay the last of them] the residue of them (Amos 4:2): those who escaped at the time that the temple fell, should perish subsequently by the sword. The two last clauses of the verse, as well as the three following verses, emphasize further the same thought.

Amos 9:1-6. The fifth vision, the smitten sanctuary. The people are all assembled for worship in their sanctuary: Jehovah is seen standing by the altar, and commanding the building to be so smitten that it may fall and destroy the worshippers: none, it is emphatically added, shall escape the irrevocable doom. The worshippers are manifestly intended to symbolize the entire nation.

Verses 1-10. - § 6. The fifth vision displays the Lord standing by the altar and commanding the destruction of the temple (ver. 1). No one shall escape this judgment, flee whither he will (vers. 2-4); for God is Almighty (vers. 5, 6). Their election shall not save the guilty Israelites; still they shall not be utterly destroyed (vers. 7-10). Verse 1. - I saw the Lord. It is now no longer a mere emblem that the prophet sees, but actual destruction. He beholds the majesty of God, as Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 10:1. Upon (or, by) the altar; i.e. the altar of burnt offering at Jerusalem, Where, it is supposed, the whole nation, Israelites and Judaeans, are assembled for worship. It is natural, at first sight, to suppose that the sanctuary of the northern kingdom is the scene of this vision, as the destruction of idolatry is here emblemized; but more probably Bethel is not meant, for there were more altars than one there (Amos 3:14), and one cannot imagine the Lord standing by the symbol of the calf worship. Smite. The command is mysteriously addressed to the destroying angel (comp. Exodus 12:13; 2 Samuel 24:15, etc.; 2 Kings 19:35). The lintel of the door; τὸ ἱλαστήριον (Septuagint); cardinem (Vulgate); better, the chapiter (Zephaniah 2:14); i.e. the capital of the columns. The word kaphtor is used in Exodus 25:31, etc., for the knop or ornament on the golden candlesticks; here the idea is that the temple receives a blow on the top of the pillars which support it sufficient to cause its overthrow. The LXX. rendering arises from a confusion of two Hebrew words somewhat similar. The posts; the thresholds; i.e. the base. The knop and the threshold imply the total destruction from summit to base. Cut them in the head, all of them; rather, break them [the capital and the thresholds] to pieces upon the head of all. Let the falling building cover them with its ruins. The Vulgate renders, avaritia enim in capite omnium, confounding two words. Jerome had the same Hebrew reading, as he translates, quaetus eorum, avaritia, as if giving the reason for the punishment. The overthrown temple presents a forcible picture of the destruction of the theocracy. The last of them (Amos 4:2); the remnant; any who escape the fall of the temple. He that fleeth, etc. All hope of escape shall be cut off. Amos 9:1"I saw the Lord standing by the altar; and He said, Smite the top, that the thresholds may tremble, and smash them upon the head of all of them; and I will slay their remnant with the sword: a fugitive of them shall not flee; and an escaped one of them shall not escape." The correct and full interpretation not only of this verse, but of the whole chapter, depends upon the answer to be given to the question, what altar we are to understand by hammizbēăch. Ewald, Hitzig, Hofmann, and Baur follow Cyril in thinking of the temple at Bethel, because, as Hitzig says, this vision attaches itself in an explanatory manner to the close of Amos 8:14, and because, according to Hofmann, "if the word of the prophet in general was directed against the kingdom, the royal house and the sanctuary of the ten tribes, the article before hammizbēăch points to the altar of the sanctuary in the kingdom of Israel, to the altar at Bethel, against which he has already prophesied in a perfectly similar manner in Amos 3:14." But there is no ground whatever for the assertion that our vision contains simply an explanation of Amos 8:14. The connection with Amos 8:1-14 is altogether not so close, that the object of the prophecy in the one chapter must of necessity cover that of the other. And it is quite incorrect to say that the word of the prophet throughout is directed simply against the kingdom of the ten tribes, or that, although Amos does indeed reprove the sins of Judah as well as those of Israel, he proclaims destruction to the kingdom of Jeroboam alone. As early as Amos 2:5 he announces desolation to Judah by fire, and the burning of the palaces of Jerusalem; and in Amos 6:1, again, he gives utterance to a woe upon the self-secure in Zion, as well as upon the careless ones in Samaria. And lastly, it is evident from Amos 9:8-10 of the present chapter, that the sinful kingdom which is to be destroyed from the face of the earth is not merely the kingdom of the ten tribes, but the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, which are embraced in one. For although it is stated immediately afterwards that the Lord will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, but will shake the house of Israel among all nations, the house of Jacob cannot mean the kingdom of Judah, and the house of Israel the kingdom of the ten tribes, because such a contrast between Judah and Israel makes the thought too lame, and the antithesis between the destruction of the sinful kingdom and the utter destruction of the nation is quite obliterated. Amos does not generally draw such a distinction between the house of Jacob and the house of Israel, as that the first represents Judah, and the second the ten tribes; but he uses the two epithets as synonymous, as we may see from a comparison of Amos 6:8 with Amos 6:14, where the rejection of the pride of Israel and the hating of its palaces (Amos 9:8) are practically interpreted by the raising up of a nation which oppresses the house of Israel in all its borders (Amos 9:14). And so also in the chapter before us, the "house of Israel" (Amos 9:9) is identical with "Israel" and the "children of Israel" (Amos 9:7), whom God brought up out of Egypt. But God brought up out of Egypt not the ten tribes, but the twelve. And consequently it is decidedly incorrect to restrict the contents of Amos 9:1-10 to the kingdom of the ten tribes. And if this be the case, we cannot possibly understand by hammizbēăch in Amos 9:1 the altar of Bethel, especially seeing that not only does Amos foretel the visitation or destruction of the altars of Bethel in Amos 3:14, and therefore recognises not one altar only in Bethel, but a plurality of altars, but that he also speaks in Amos 7:9 of the desolation of the high places and sanctuaries in Israel, and in Amos 8:14 places the sanctuary at Daniel on a par with that at Bethel; so that there was not any one altar in the kingdom of the ten tribes, which could be called hammizbēăch, the altar par excellence, inasmuch as it possessed from the very beginning two sanctuaries of equal dignity (viz., at Bethel and Dan). Hammizbēăch, therefore, both here and at Ezekiel 9:2, is the altar of burnt-offering in the temple, at Jerusalem, the sanctuary of the whole of the covenant nation, to which even the ten bribes still belonged, in spite of their having fallen away from the house of David. So long as the Lord still continued to send prophets to the ten tribes, so long did they pass as still forming part of the people of God, and so long also was the temple at Jerusalem the divinely appointed sanctuary and the throne of Jehovah, from which both blessings and punishment issued from the. The Lord roars from Zion, and from Zion He utters His voice (Amos 1:2), not only upon the nations who have shown hostility to Judah or Israel, but also upon Judah and Israel, on account of their departure from His law (Amos 2:4 and Amos 2:6.).

The vision in this verse is founded upon the idea that the whole nation is assembled before the Lord at the threshold of the temple, so that it is buried under the ruins of the falling building, in consequence of the blow upon the top, which shatters the temple to its very foundations. The Lord appears at the altar, because here at the sacrificial place of the nation the sins of Israel are heaped up, that He may execute judgment upon the nation there. נצּב על, standing at (not upon) the altar, as in 1 Kings 13:1. He gives commandment to smite the top. The person who is to do this is not mentioned; but it was no doubt an angel, probably the המּלאך המּשׁחית, who brought the pestilence as a punishment at the numbering of the people in the time of David (2 Samuel 24:15-16), who smote the army of the Assyrian king Sennacherib before Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35), and who also slew the first-born of Egypt (Exodus 12:13, Exodus 12:23); whereas in Ezekiel 9:2, Ezekiel 9:7, He is represented as accomplishing the judgment of destruction by means of six angels. Hakkaphtōr, the knob or top; in Exodus 25:31, Exodus 25:33, ff., an ornament upon the shaft and branches of the golden candlestick. Here it is an ornament at the top of the columns, and not "the lintel of the door," or "the pinnacle of the temple with its ornaments." For the latter explanation of kaphtōr, which cannot be philologically sustained, by no means follows from the fact that the antithesis to the kaphtōr is formed by the sippı̄m, or thresholds of the door. The knob and threshold simply express the contrast between the loftiest summit and the lowest base, without at all warranting the conclusion that the saph denotes the base of the pillar which culminated in a knob, or kaphtōr, the top of the door which rested upon a threshold. The description is not architectural, but rhetorical, the separate portions of the whole being individualized, for the purpose of expressing the thought that the building was to be shattered to pieces in summo usque ad imum, a capite ad calcem. Would we bring out more clearly the idea which lies at the foundation of the rhetorical mode of expression, we have only to think of the capital of the pillars Jachin and Boaz, and that with special reference to their significance, as symbolizing the stability of the temple. The smiting of these pillars, so that they fall to the ground, individualizes the destruction of the temple, without there being any necessity in consequence to think of these pillars as supporting the roof of the temple hall. The rhetorical character of the expression comes out clearly again in what follows, "and smash them to pieces, i.e., lay them in ruins upon the head of all,"

(Note: Luther's rendering, "for their avarice shall come upon the head of all of them," in which he follows the Vulgate, arose from בּצעם being confounded with בּצעם.)

where the plural suffix attached to בּצעם (with the toneless suffix for בּצעם; see Ewald, 253, a) cannot possibly be taken as referring to the singular hakkaphtōr, nor even to hassippı̄m alone, but must refer to the two nouns hakkaphtōr and hassippı̄m. the reference to hassippı̄m could no doubt be grammatically sustained; but so far as the sense is concerned, it is inadmissible, inasmuch as when a building falls to the ground in consequence of its having been laid in ruins by a blow from above, the thresholds of the entrance could not possibly fall upon the heads of the men who were standing in front of it. The command has throughout a symbolical meaning, ad has no literal reference to the destruction of the temple. The temple symbolizes the kingdom of God, which the Lord had founded in Israel; and as being the centre of that kingdom, it stands here for the kingdom itself. In the temple, as the dwelling-place of the name of Jehovah, i.e., of the gracious presence of God, the idolatrous nation beheld an indestructible pledge of the lasting continuance of the kingdom. But this support to their false trust is taken away from it by the announcement that the Lord will lay the temple in ruins. The destruction of the temple represents the destruction of the kingdom of God embodied in the temple, with which indeed the earthly temple would of necessity fall to the ground. No one will escape this judgment. This is affirmed in the words which follow: And their last, their remnant ('achărı̄th, as in Amos 4:2), I will slay with the sword; as to the meaning of which Cocceius has correctly observed, that the magnitude of the slaughter is increased exclusione fugientium et eorum, qui videbantur effugisse. The apparent discrepancy in the statement, that they will all be crushed to pieces by the ruins, and yet there will be fugitives and persons who have escaped, is removed at once if we bear in mind that the intention of the prophet is to cut off every loophole for carnal security, and that the meaning of the words is simply this: "And even if any should succeed in fleeing and escaping, God will pursue them with the sword, and slay them" (see Hengstenberg, Christology, on this passage).

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Amos 8:14
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